Travels with Children

The adventures I embark upon with my four young children.

Archive for minneapolis

Crossing the Bridge

Today we crossed the new 35W bridge in Minneapolis for the first time.  It’s been a week since the bridge opened; just over a year since the old one collapsed.

I remember the day the bridge collapsed, thinking, “It couldn’t really have happened, could it?” as we so often do when tragedies occur.

But it did, and now it’s been rebuilt, with a memorial planned near the site along the Minneapolis riverfront.

And so today, a little because it was a good route to take, and a little because of curiosity, I talked to my kids about the bridge collapse, and told them that we’d be driving over the new bridge.  They are still young enough that the significance missed them, and they said, “OK, Mom,” and went right back to counting buses and airplanes and UPS trucks with the excitement of kids who rarely see these things in their rural life.

Traffic was blissfully quiet as we crossed the new span.  I didn’t hold my breath, as I’ve heard of others doing as they crossed this new piece of pavement.  I didn’t worry that this bridge would collapse, because it’s new and wide and strong, and there are so many older bridges that really are crumbling where I do say a prayer for safety as I speed across.

I did, however, think of the thirteen people who lost their lives on that August day, and of their families, and of the survivors of the bridge collapse, those who will forever have scars from it.

And then it was done.  It took only a few seconds to cross the bridge, and now I can say I’ve done it.  Why I think that’s important, I’m not sure.  But it’s a milestone nonetheless.

If you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area this week . . .

and can find a way, go to Civic Fest at the Minneapolis Convention Center!  I’m too beat for a full review right now, but it was very well done.  The floor was not crowded and there were lots of things for kids (and adults!) to do.  Civic Fest runs through Thursday (coinciding with the Republican National Convention), so if you can clear your calendar for a few hours, take advantage of this opportunity.  Be sure to take your camera as there are some nice photo areas as well.

The Bakken Museum

The Bakken Museum

3537 Zenith Ave. S (off Lake Calhoun), Minneapolis, MN. 612-926-3878. www.thebakken.org
$7 adults, $5 students & senior, 3 and under free. Free parking. Stroller accessible, though easier in some areas than others. Restrooms available.

We visited the Bakken Museum last spring while using our first Museum Adventure Pass, which was available from Minneapolis-St. Paul area libraries for admission to several different museums. The Bakken was unique enough that I hadn’t heard of it before, but since I had a free pass, we gave it a try.

The Bakken is truly an electrifying place. Most of its exhibits are on the theme of electricity. Visitors can crank a wheel to make a spark, see how primitive batteries worked, and learn about magnetism and the history of electricity. A hands-on area (with capable guide) allowed the kids to be “charged up” and demonstrate how static electricity works.

The museum was very quiet when we were there, which allowed the kids to explore their favorites several times over. I had been afraid that it would be a “looking only” museum, but there were a nice number of hands-on activities the kids could try.

There is also a Frankenstein exhibit, but the posted warnings said it might not be suitable for young children, so we didn’t go in that area.

The Bakken was a nice surprise to find. I wish I would have planned ahead a little more so that we would have had time for a nice walk around Lake Calhoun, which is just across the street.

We’ll probably go back again when the kids are a little older, and when my husband can come as well, since I think he would be interested in a lot of things at the Bakken.

I really liked doing the electricity wheel.

Adventures on a Budget

Going on adventures with kids doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of money on admission.  Here are some tips for seeing the world without breaking the bank. 

  • Find out if the location has free or discount days.  Many museums will have free admission on a weekly or monthly basis; check their websites for details.  Amusement parks may offer discounted “twilight” admission. 
  • Purchase a museum membership.  Many museums provide reciprocal free or discounted admission to other museums within their associations.  It’s a great deal if you’ll be visiting several museums during the year.  The Association of Children’s Museums (www.childrensmuseums.org), Association of Science-Technology Centers (www.astc.org), and American Zoo Association (www.aza.org) are examples.  Some museums are members of more than one organization so you can really get a bang for your buck.  This year, I invested $224 in museum memberships, and if I had paid regular admission at those sites, it would have totaled $391.  I still have 4-6 months left on my memberships, so I’ll save even more before they expire.  (Hint:  You can purchase a membership at an out-of-state museum via the Internet without ever visiting the museum.  Memberships rates vary greatly from museum to museum, so doing some homework can really pay off.)
  • Broaden your horizons.  Even though I’m not an avid art lover, we’ve gone to art museums on free family days and had a great time while exposing the kids to something new.
  • If you’re a member of certain organizations, you may receive a discount on admission.  AAA and Farm Bureau are some examples.  Your employer may also offer discount tickets to attractions. 
  • Scour websites for other details.  Some museums offer free memberships or greatly reduced admission to families within certain income guidelines.
  • Go while the kids are young. 😉  Many places offer free or greatly reduced admission prices for children under 3, under 6, or even under 12.  Other places will give a family rate that is a better deal than paying for each individual.  Doing your homework ahead of time, especially via the web, can ensure that you get the best price available.
  • Look for coupons in visitor’s guides and welcome packets.
  • If you live in Minnesota, check out a Museum Adventure Pass for free admission to many metro-area museums.  See www.melsa.org/museumadventurepass for details.

On occasion, I do pay full price for admission, and it’s well worth it!

What Are Adventures?

On summer days, weekends, days off school, etc., I like to take my kids on “adventures.”  Sometimes they’re close to home, and sometimes they become day trips, weekends, or even a vacation.  Sometimes we go to only one place in a day, but often we piggy-back multiple places.  Sometimes my husband comes along, but often the kids and I get out and have fun while he’s left behind to work.

People often think I’m crazy to go to museums and other locations with four young children (ages 6.5, 4.5, 3.5, and 1.5) in tow.  Choosing the right stroller for the occasion is just part of the fun. 

I plan ahead (look at guidebooks and websites), navigate the old-fashioned way (using a map and some good luck), and find a bargain when I can.

To give you an idea of the adventures we take, here’s where we’ve gone in 2007.  In the future, I’ll try to catch up on the details of each trip, but for now, here’s the list.

  1. Alexander Ramsey House, St. Paul, MN 
  2. Amaze-n Farmyard, Eden Valley, MN 
  3. Art Institue of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  4. Bakken Museum, Minneapolis, MN
  5. Brown County Historical Society Museum, New Ulm, MN
  6. Charles A. Lindbergh House, Little Falls, MN
  7. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, IL
  8. Como Zoo, St. Paul, MN
  9. Deardorff Orchard, Waconia, MN
  10. Duluth Children’s Museum, Duluth, MN
  11. DuPage Children’s Museum, Naperville, IL
  12. End-o-Line Railroad Park and Museum, Currie, MN
  13. Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, MN
  14. Fort Ridgely Historic Site, Fairfax, MN
  15. Graue Mill, Oak Brook, IL
  16. Great Lakes Aquarium, Duluth, MN
  17. Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum, Sioux Falls, SD
  18. Harkin Store Historic Site, New Ulm, MN
  19. Historic Fort Snelling, St. Paul, MN
  20. Historic Murphy’s Landing, Shakopee, MN
  21. Jackson Street Roundhouse, St. Paul, MN
  22. Kirby Science Discovery Center, Sioux Falls, SD
  23. LaCrosse Children’s Museum, LaCrosse, WI
  24. Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL
  25. Lower Sioux Agency Historic Site, Morton, MN
  26. Mall of America, Bloomington, MN
  27. Mill City Museum, Minneapolis, MN
  28. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
  29. Minnesota Children’s Museum, St. Paul, MN
  30. Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN
  31. Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen, MN
  32. Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul, MN
  33. Minnesota Streetcar Museum, Minneapolis, MN
  34. Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley, MN
  35. Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
  36. Northwoods Children’s Museum, Eagle River, WI
  37. Notebaert Nature Center, Chicago, IL
  38. Oliver Kelley Farm, Elk River, MN
  39. Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
  40. Sears Tower, Chicago, IL
  41. Sertoma Butterfly House, Sioux Falls, SD
  42. Sibley House Historic Site, Mendota, MN
  43. Stearns History Museum, St. Cloud, MN
  44. Traverse des Sioux Historic Site, St. Peter, MN
  45. Twin City Model Railroad Museum, St. Paul, MN
  46. Valleyfair, Shakopee, MN
  47. Spam Museum, Austin, MN
  48. The Depot, Duluth, MN
  49. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN